Tag Archives: Christopher Woods

Rob’s Update: One Guy Going Boom!

Week 35 of 2021

Greetings all

Been a great week here. Talons & Talismans One is edited. I’d send it to get it into the machine today but I tend to try and give me a day to sit on things so I can remember what all I’ve forgotten.

The House Between Worlds will be back to Jon Osborne tomorrow. Really, it’s a great book, entirely fitting given the rest of the Milesian Accords series.

Not a ton of writing here as I’ve been pushing out editing content like mad. It’s been really productive, though, and I’m proud of what we’ve done. You’re going to love it.

Next week, on the 13th, I have another short story coming out. It’s entitled “Careful With That Axe, E.U. Gene,” and it’s set in Kevin Steverson’s great Salvage Title universe.

This is one of my favorite stories that I’ve ever done. I set myself a bit of a challenge. Christopher Woods and William Joseph Roberts packed their novel Smuggler’s Run, also set in the Salvage Title universe, with as many pop culture references they could insert into the prose. They even applied to Guinness World Records as the titleholder in that category.

Guinness said they couldn’t track the category well enough to actually make it a category, but I set myself the challenge of beating their record, at least in terms of references per page.

And then I gave myself an extra difficulty factor (because of course I do). Anyway, I limited myself strictly to classic and metal rock band names and song titles. I managed to stick in over two hundred references. I’ll list exactly how many on release day and I’ll send anyone who gets all of them a free e-book I’ve written of their choice.

Now, of course, today is a pre-holiday for me. It’s the ceremonial start of the NFL season and I get to watch the Cowboys play right off the bat. Don’t worry, Sunday is still a major holiday to me and I plan on watching as many games as I can.

I had my fantasy football league draft on Monday, too. Was there any doubt I’d have a team? I mean, seriously, if anyone was going to play fantasy football it’s a lifelong NFL fan who is the publisher of a fantasy imprint.

Speaking of the NFL, Ian J. Malone, Kevin Steverson, and I had a great time talking the upcoming season with Nic Gurley on the latest Dudes in Hyperspace podcast. Nic knows his stuff and we talked about the upcoming season, some challenges facing teams, players and the league itself, and we made some long-term projections for years to come.

Here’s my prediction about the Cowboys, since they’re my team. They’re going to get beat tonight. A fully healthy Bucs team at home *should* win.

But the Cowboys are relying on a bunch of young players this year. It’s usually the case that teams like that will have some challenges early in the season but round into form late in the year.

So I think they’ll lose tonight, but win the NFC East in the end of it all and I expect them to do some damage in the playoffs.

I’m so ready for some football!

What I’m Listening To

Dog & Butterfly by Heart. I can pinpoint exactly when I first heard this song. Some kid (I don’t remember who) brought it into our 4th grade music class. I was captivated then, and I still think that’s Heart’s best album ever.

Quote of the Week

I miss John Madden as a commentator. It’s true that we have some amazing commentators now like Tony Romo, but it’s hard to remember just how revolutionary he was. His personality combined with his knowledge of the game was something we’d never seen before.

“You got one guy going boom, one guy going whack, and one guy not getting in the endzone.”
John Madden

Cool Stuff In Eldros Legacy

Talons & Talismans Too is almost ready to go to the editor. Why do I mention that here? Well, because all of the first ten (yes, ten) novel authors in the Eldros Legacy contributed to the anthology, including a bunch of Eldros Legacy stories.

Call it a prequel of sorts.

New Mythology Works in Progress

Current open anthology calls:

I’m currently working on The House Between Worlds. The two Talons & Talismans are getting close (One is 99.9% done). Then after that I turn to Steven G. Johnson’s two novels that finish his Forge and Sword trilogy.

Rob’s Works in Progress

  • The Door Into Winter (1,043)
  • Rick Blaine (8,845)
  • CB (8,418)
  • SOTI (7,948) (Formerly MON)

Upcoming Events

New Releases

Jamie Ibson gives us a whole new future merc series, Myrmidons, Inc. The first in the series is Myrmidons Inc: Urbicide. “Genie” assassins, mercs, and a lot to remind you of Shadowrun and Blade Runner. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09F6QRGBZ/.

And if you’re interested in the Peacemakers from 4HU like I am, you can get the start of that part of the 4HU series for less than a dollar. It’s Peacemaker by the great Kevin Ikenberry who will be guest of honor at FenCon next weekend. Sale lasts only another day or so, so check it out here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0752J8M3K.

Tracked Items

Today’s Weight: 334.0

Updated Word Count: 272,426 (It jumped because I went back and looked at all the stories I’d edited and submitted in the past couple of months).

Shijuren Wiki: 789 entries

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell

Founder in the Eldros Legacy series

Weekly Update Archive

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Rob’s Update: Home is the Hunter

Week 31 of 2021

Greetings all

Home from Armistice! What a great event. I outsold *any* SCA event I’ve ever been to, including several Pennsics with 7 times the population over two weeks. Part of that is because several of my regulars were part of those that attended, but still, I was very pleased.

Assuming Pennsic continues, I now have a specific spot of my own where I’ll be located, too. It’s an ideal spot, I think. I’ll be right between Calontir Trim and Gaukler Medieval Wares, across from Windrose Armory. Shady, beautiful, good neighbors, close to the barn.

This has been a week of catching up, both with work stuff and sleep. I got back a day earlier than I anticipated, which helped, but it’s been an exhausting week. I will also freely admit that I chose sleep and to spend some extra time with my sweetie to catch up. That last is why this is late.

I spent a lot of the last two weeks running through the final batch of entries for Talons & Talismans. I’ll make the announcement on Sunday night for who all is in. The choice will be difficult.

Let me put it this way, I’m really glad I’m doing two anthologies. That means I don’t have to choose just four out of the open submissions, but I get to choose eight. Since I’m struggling over which ones to choose out of fifteen who made my final round, the quality of submissions was amazing.

I’m currently finishing a short story. That’ll be done this week. Then I’ll start a new novel I’m entitling The Door Into Winter. This will be out in April.

What I’m Listening To

Watching Little League baseball for those trying to get to the Little League World Series. I love baseball at any level, but I really enjoy watching these guys play the game. Just now a kid from the Nebraska team made a great diving catch to end a game with the tying run on second base. That kid will *never* forget that moment.

Quote of the Week

Today is Alfred Hitchcock’s birthday. What an interesting career he had, of course, I am just now starting to really delve into his specific techniques as I try to be a better writer. Today’s quote is something I’m working on.

“There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.”
― Alfred Hitchcock

New Mythology Works in Progress

Current open anthology calls:

Finishing the list of stories in the two Talons & Talismans anthologies. On track for my hoped for goal of 15 August.

Rob’s Works in Progress

  • The Door Into Winter (0)
  • Rick Blaine (8,845)
  • CB (8,418)
  • MON (829)

Upcoming Events

  • FactoryCon, 22-24 October, Coinjock, NC
    Details in the CKP – Factory Floor on Facebook.
  • 20BooksTo50K, 8-12 November, Las Vegas, NV
    http://20booksvegas.com/

New Releases

The big new release is Cherubim by David Hallquist. This is the second book in his War Angel series. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09BTRDYVL.

We have another buck book! This times it’s Don’t Call Me Ishmael by Chris Kennedy. This is book 2 of the Fallen World series started by Christopher Woods. You can find this book here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07Q56TCF2.

Finally, Eye of the Storm by Chris Kennedy and Mark Wandrey is now available for pre-release in audio form. You can find that here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B093NXYC7C.

Tracked Items

Today’s Weight: 337.8 (Side note: I’m really pleased I kept control of my weight throughout Pennsic.)

Updated Word Count: 182,678

Shijuren Wiki: 753 entries

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell

Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Weekly Update Archive

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org

Rob’s Update: The Bright Stuff of Dreams

Week 8 of 2021

Greetings all

Fun and productive week here. I made significant progress in The Ravening of Wolves. The first round of edits on Across the Endless Ocean are done and it’s in the system. More on that later. Progress on other plans made, with more coming today.

The Ravening of Wolves, as I mentioned, is making progress. I hope to have a full draft done in March, and that seems increasingly likely to be middle as opposed to end.

Then I’ll be starting on some new fantasy. I have two fantasy books planned for the rest of the year. One, I’m aiming for late fall release, and the other to be released in May-ish.

That’s on top of New Mythology stuff, of course.

What I’m Listening To

Sabaton’s Heroes album. There are few more inspiring bands to write to than Sabaton for me. Amazing stuff.

Quote of the Week

Today, in 1977, the Enterprise, the Space Shuttle test vehicle, flew its first test flight. That led, of course, to Columbia. The members of Rush were at STS-1, the first launch of the Columbia, and they wrote a song about that day.

It’s especially cool to think about this with the landing of Perseverance on Mars today. It really is a magic day for the bright stuff of dreams.

“Circling choppers slash the night
With roving searchlight beams
This magic day when super-science
Mingles with the bright stuff of dreams”
Rush, Countdown

New Mythology Works in Progress

Two new additions to the upcoming schedule!

  • 1 March: The Watchers at War (Book 3 of the Watchers of Moniah Series by Barbara V. Evers)
  • 19 March: Songs of Valor (Book 2 of the Libri Valoris anthologies with Larry Correia, David Weber, Glen Cook, Dave Butler, and Sarah Hoyt)
  • 12 April: Accepted (Book 2 of the Balance of Kerr series by Kevin Steverson.
  • 21 May: Across the Endless Ocean (Book 1 of the Endless Ocean series by G. Scott Huggins)

In addition, I just started editing my second accepted submission. This one is more mil-fantasy, which is something I plan on expanding in New Mythology Press. I know a bunch of our readers love mil-SF, including me, and I also love the mil-fantasy genre, so I’m going to make sure we get more read.

Rob’s Works in Progress

  • The Ravening of Wolves (51,260)
  • Rick Blaine (8,845)
  • CB (8,418)
  • Cynewulf (8,642)
  • Gato (2,312)

Upcoming Events

New Releases

We have a couple of titles this week. First, there’s the Trashman, first in the Hit World series by William Webb. What is the Hit World series? Well, it’s what I call genre gumbo. A little of this, a little of that, add action for spice, and let simmer for a while. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08SVZF2HF.

Then there’s Kade, a full novel about Matthew Kade from the Fallen World series by Christopher Woods. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08WK3B861. I warn you, the Fallen World is addictive.

Today’s Weight: 339.8 (first time in the 330s since around 2003)

Updated Word Count: 7,538

Shijuren Wiki: 725 entries

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell

Currently Available Works
Shijuren

Nick Patara, PI

  • Silent Knight (Nick Patara, PI, Book 1)
  • Under a Midnight Clear (Nick Patara, PI, Book 2) (Forthcoming)
Four Horsemen Universe
The Phases of Mars
Short Stories

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org

Rob’s Update: Thursday, Thursday

Week 3 of 2021

Greetings all

First, I want to thank all of you who’ve joined the mailing list this past week. Not surprisingly, a bunch of people are interested in New Mythology Press. Can’t blame you, we’re doing some good stuff.

Anyway, you’ll see I add a few things besides simply tossing business stuff at you. This first section is what I’m working on or things in my life. Then I’ll add what I’m listening, which will sometimes flow right into the Quote of the Week. I love aphorisms, by the way, so if you’ve got some fun ones, send them my way.

After that is when I’ll get into the meaty part. There’s a section on what’s happening with New Mythology. Then a list of my works in progress. If it’s a novel and I’ve got a title, it’s listed. Then there’s the various short story scraps that I’m messing with. These don’t always change, but I like to remind myself what I’m doing.

Speaking of what I’m doing, I then have my schedule listed. Right now, it’s basically just FantaSci, LibertyCon, and DragonCon, but I have hopes to add a number of others later in the year. As we all know, we’ll see what happens.

Next comes the New Releases section. This includes not only my own new releases, nor also New Mythology’s, but I’ve been blessed to be a part of a cool and productive writing crew and I like to brag about them too.

Finally, there are a  few counters. I like to keep track of my weight, and I might as well do it here. Then there’s my updated word count. I’m still waffling on how I’ll count edited works, as that will be more and more common, but I have goals I strive for each year. Finally, there’s a list of the number of entries on Shijuren wiki page, which tends to shoot up in bunches as I’m working on a new Shijuren story.

I’m actually working on a new story in the Four Horsemen Universe right now, the sequel to The Feeding of Sorrows. This one’s called The Ravening of Wolves, as the Foresters work with the Zuul to strike at those who’ve been attacking both units for years.

It’s a bit of a truncated week, as things get shifted around, but I’m excited where I’m going with a variety of projects and I think you guys are going to love the explosions and swordplay coming down the pike.

What I’m Listening To

Hemispheres, by Rush. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been picking albums by Rush and just playing them over and over. It’s reminiscent of getting a new cassette and sticking it into the player on my 1969 VW Bug. Slug bug orange, by the way.

Quote of the Week

I still remember the first time I heard these lyrics. I immediately loved the way Neil Peart twisted and wove these words around into such a neat pattern. It was about this point, I started to love poetry.

Let the truth of love be lighted
Let the love of truth shine clear
Sensibility, armed with sense and liberty
With the heart and mind united in a single, perfect sphere

Hemispheres
Rush

New Mythology Works in Progress

As we’ve posted in a variety of places, New Mythology Press is accepted submissions. Here are the guidelines.

  • Novels of 80 to 120k words
  • In .doc or .docx file format
  • Times New Roman, 12pt
  • 1.5 spaced
  • Can be fantasy of any type, epic, urban, high, whatever. Needs to have heroes doing heroic things, just like you’ve come to expect from all the books from CKP.

I’m pleased to say that I’ve accepted one of several submissions and I’m about 30% through my editing pass. This is really exciting, and I can’t wait to share this great story and the others in this series. You’re going to love Responsibility.

There are currently three books on the schedule from New Mythology Press. They are:

  • 25 January: The Watchers in Exile (Watchers of Moniah, Book 2) by Barbara Evers (At the Advance Reader Team)
  • 1 March: The Watchers at War (Watchers of Moniah, Book 3) by Barbara Evers (Note this will complete the trilogy)
  • 19 March: Songs of Valor (Libri Valoris, Book 2)

There are a number of other projects in the works, including a couple of sequels in existing series and the first glimmerings of some other awesome projects.

Again, I’m honored with the opportunity that Chris gave me here, and I can’t wait to get you a bunch of cool stuff to read.

Rob’s Works in Progress

  • The Ravening of Wolves (35,863)
  • Rick Blaine (8,845)
  • CB (8,418)
  • Cynewulf (8,642)
  • Gato (2,312)

Upcoming Events

New Releases

This week’s spotlight is still on This week’s spotlight is on Christopher Woods and William Joseph Roberts, who put out their own take on the Salvage Title universe with Smuggler’s Run. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08S71RJP5. They get spotlighted twice because of the change in mailing list days.

Also, Jon Osborne’s A Tangled Fate, the third in his Milesian Accords series, is now out in audiobook form. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Tangled-Fate-Milesian-Accords-Book/dp/B0833DWSSS/.

Finally, Chris Kennedy decided to give some unknown guy a little help and wrote a book with him. The other guy? Oh, just David Weber. They just released Into the Light, the second in their Out of the Dark series. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08BKLY24N.

Today’s Weight: 347.8

Updated Word Count: 3,602

Shijuren Wiki: 724 entries

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell

Currently Available Works
Shijuren

Nick Patara, PI

  • Silent Knight (Nick Patara, PI, Book 1)
  • Under a Midnight Clear (Nick Patara, PI, Book 2) (Forthcoming)
Four Horsemen Universe
The Phases of Mars
Short Stories

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org

Rob’s Update: Death-Pale Were They All

Week 44 of 2020

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I love watching people get creative with costume ideas and decorations. There are so many times where I’m just in awe of their awesome ideas. Of course, there are many times I’m just in awe of their awful ideas. Ah, well, trick or treat, of a sort.

I’ve spent the bulk of this week removing crutch words out of None Call Me Mother, which is coming out on 24 November. My  crutch words are usually things like shrug, chuckle, laugh, and that sort of thing. I also do too many things with peoples eyes.

Much of the time, the best solution is to get rid of them. They’re often stage direction that’s really not needed. From a first full draft of 148k, I think I’ll end up at 125k of stronger faster prose.

I’ve also been hammering at rebuilding the wiki. By the 24th, it has to include all the characters and what not from the Kreisens trilogy. This isn’t just to have reference for readers if they need it, but more importantly it gives me a chance to double-check things. I’ve found a number of mistakes/inconsistencies that I wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t double-checked with the wiki. In a world of already something like 700k published words (as of 24 November), there will be issues, but a detailed bible is so useful to help prevent them.

Anyway, I’m also almost done with my short story for the next Libri Valoris. I’m setting up a character to have to make a choice. This is my norm, of course, however, the consequences for this character are just a tad different, but then, so is she.

I hope everyone gets a chance to wear something silly, eat candy, and admire the pole dancing skeleton display on the internet.

What I’m Listening To

Langt Nord I Trollebotten is a song by a band called Lumsk you’ve never heard of. They’re a Norwegian folk metal band and this is one of my all time favorite songs. It seems like every folk metal band has at least one truly amazing instrumental song. Pellonpekko for Korpiklaani for example, or Wolf Ritual by  Tengger Cavalry. This is Lumsk’s and it’s amazing. I can’t listen to any of these three songs just once. I always hit rewind for a few more listens before moving on.

Quote of the Week

Since it’s Halloween, here’s a creepy quote from Keats. It’s the last 3 stanzas of La Belle Dame sans Merci, which you can read in its entirety here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44475/la-belle-dame-sans-merci-a-ballad. I actually learned this poem because Robert B. Parker named a Spenser book, Pale Kings and Princes. Just another reason I loved reading his stuff.

I saw pale kings and princes too,
       Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried—‘La Belle Dame sans Merci
       Thee hath in thrall!’
I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
       With horrid warning gapèd wide,
And I awoke and found me here,
       On the cold hill’s side.
And this is why I sojourn here,
       Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is withered from the lake,
       And no birds sing.

– John Keats, La Belle Dame sans Merci

News and Works in Progress

  • The Ravening of Wolves (32,068)
  • KAT (4,982)
  • CB (8,418)
  • AOOE (1,030)
  • Cynewulf (8,642)
  • Gato (2,312)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

  • Too many wiki additions to list.

New Releases

This week’s spotlight is Jamie Ibson, who just released another novel in Christopher Woods’ Fallen World setting. Ibson’s is called Pacific Shogun. You might recognize Jamie as the editor of the We Dare books, but this is him on his own. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08M418TXV.

Also out this week is Chris Kennedy’s Indie Publishing for Profit: How to Get Your Book Out of Your Head and Into the Stores. It’s the second of his Author Fundamentals books and you can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08LR3G1FD.

Today’s Weight: 356.4

Updated Word Count: 240,925

Shijuren Wiki: 230 entries

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell

Currently Available Works
Shijuren
Four Horsemen Universe
The Phases of Mars
Short Stories

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org

Rob’s Update: Friends and Family

Week 35 of 2020

Greetings all

A week of things projects as much as writing. Only 3 real writing days, but still productive. Still getting over 2k per day done on The Ravening of Sorrows.

We finished a major project here that’s been something we’ve been stepping around for months, but it’s now to the finish work stage. We’re really pleased to have that done.

We spent a lot of the week dealing with stuff. Neither of us have gotten great sleep for a while because one of us has had to sleep with the cat that was wearing a cone of shame. The cone of shame is off as of today and everything seems back to normal.

I’ll be editing a short story next week and adding to The Ravening of Sorrows a bit. Then I’ll be switching to editing None Call Me Mother. Getting close on that.

And with that, I’m going to go watch a movie with the sweetie.

What I’m Listening To

Good friends on a Zoom meeting call. It’s good to see friends, even if only virtually.

Quote of the Week

Today is Mary Shelley’s birthday and here’s a quote from one of the founders of science fiction and fantasy. This is a perfect quote for writing SF/F.

“Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos.”
– Mary Shelley.

News and Works in Progress

  • The Ravening of Wolves (29,837)
  • CB (8,418)
  • AOOE (1,030)
  • Cynewulf (8,642)
  • Gato (2,312)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

  • Didn’t have a chance to work on anything else this week.

Upcoming Events

New Releases

This week we have a new release in the Fallen World, The Island of Dr. Laroue by Christopher Woods and Chris Kennedy. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08GQ6R9VR/.

Also, we have a couple of entries on Bookbub this week. A Time to Die by Mark Wandrey is today. Tomorrow will be Jon Osborne’s A Reluctant Druid. Both are 0.99 cents. The Bookbub links are awful, so click on the titles to go to those specials.

Today’s Weight: 364.4

Updated Word Count: 234,350

Shijuren Wiki: 874 entries

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell

Currently Available Works
Shijuren
Four Horsemen Universe
The Phases of Mars
Short Stories

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org

Rob’s Update: Purposeful Motion

Week 7 of 2020

Greetings all

It’s been one of those weeks where I’ve had to fight through getting words on the page. I’ve averaged just at 1000 words, but it’s been slow going despite staying at the keyboard.

I did make good progress on my next 4HU short story, and I’m approaching the main battle scene. I’ll have that done next week, though I’ll probably have editing yet still to do.

I also made progress in None Call Me Mother, though this was a bunch of re-arrangement. I have a thread I need to include in the final battle and getting the character there has been challenging. I *think* I have it now, but we’ll see. My word total went down, but as I’m at 108k, that’s fine.

The sweetie requested some small short stories for a project she’s working on. I got a draft of the first one of those written today. That one, at least, came out smoothly and easily.

I also wrote a draft of the Preface for When Valor Must Hold. In other words, it was not a week of legend, but I made progress.

Hopefully, the words will jump off the page next week. If not, I’ll keep plugging away.Have a great week.

What I’m Listening To

Cinderella Man by Rush off of Different Stages. A Farewell to Kings is a fantastic album and one I listen to frequently.

Quote of the Week

If there’s ever a quote an author should here, especially in a week where the words don’t come out easily, this is it.

“Cinderella Man
Hang on to your plans
Try as they might
They cannot steal your dreams”
– Rush, Cinderella Man

News and Works in Progress

  • None Call Me Mother (108,716)
  • CB (8,418)
  • FSS (5,668)
  • RQS (1,312)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

This week’s spotlight is on Christopher Woods, whose story “Darkness Before the Dawn” inspired the cover of When Valor Must Hold. You can find that interview here: https://robhowell.org/blog/?p=2007.

Today’s Weight: 396.4

Updated Word Count: 30,443

Shijuren Wiki: Updating

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell

Currently Available Works
Shijuren
Four Horsemen Universe
The Phases of Mars
Short Stories

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org

Interview: Benjamin Tyler Smith

For the first quarter of 2020, my Wednesday interviews will be with authors who are part of When Valor Must Hold, the upcoming anthology of fantasy stories published by Chris Kennedy Publishing.

Today’s answers come from Benjamin Tyler Smith. He’s an up-and-coming author who you guys are going to really like, if you don’t already.

His story in When Valor Must Hold is “Hanging by a Thread.” This story, set in his Necrolopolis universe, combines the weary cop trying to keep the criminals of his city to a dull roar with practical necromancy.

I will say his interview answers have much more life than many characters in his stories. Of course, they’re undead, so…

Interview: Benjamin Tyler Smith

Benjamin Tyler Smith
Benjamin Tyler Smith

Why are you here?

  • What are your influences?

Fantasy books by some of the greats (Raymond E. Feist, David Eddings, Robert Jordan, to name a few), anime in a ton of genres (Mecha, Fantasy, Cyberpunk, Magical Girl), and role playing games of various sorts (Most notably Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy IV and VI, Baldur’s Gate, and Betrayal at Krondor).

  • Who are some favorite other creators?

Feist, Eddings, and Jordan as mentioned above. Also Kate Elliott for her Crown of Stars series, Elizabeth Haydon for her Symphony of Ages series, and Dan Abnett for his Gaunt’s Ghost series. Over in Japan, I love Reki Kawahara (Sword Art Online), Ken Akamatsu (Love Hina), Nagaru Tanigawa (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya), and Kenichi Sonoda (Gunsmith Cats), to name a few.

More recently, my favorite creators include Kacey Ezell (“Minds of Men” is awesome, as are any of her stories of the Depik race in the Four Horsemen Universe), Christopher Woods for his Fallen World novels (Now I know I’m biased, but I burned through his first book in record time, then listened to it again), Mark Wandrey for his Four Horsemen stories, especially the ones about Jim Cartwright.

  • What made you a creator in the first place?

God, when He created me. I’ve always told stories, made things up, and eventually started putting those imaginings down on paper, first as King Arthur fanfiction, then as Star Wars fanfiction, and finally as my own stuff as the years have gone by. Even if I made no money writing, I would still do it. It wouldn’t be my career so I wouldn’t be able to do it as much, but I’d still do it in some form or another. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

  • Why did you choose to create what you create?

Things just come to me. Often when I’m listening to music or watching anime. I can’t listen to anything without getting some kind of scene or character or plot idea, and when I’m watching a good movie or show, certain moments just inspire me, either to write something similar or to take a particular emotion I feel and try to recreate it.

  • Feel free to add things you would someday like to create.

I’ve got way too many ideas, likely more than God’s given me years on this Earth. That said, I do have some plans. For this year, my focus is on building out the Fallen World universe with at least one sequel to Blue Crucible, as well as a short story or two. I also have a Jackie Warren book planned out for the Four Horsemen Universe. That’ll be a sequel on the “Return to Sender” story in the Tales from the Lyons Den anthology from late 2018. I also want to write the first book set in the Necrolopolis universe, which will feature a lot of the characters from the short story “Hanging by a Thread” that’ll be in the upcoming sword-and-sorcery anthology When Valor Must Hold. And then there are other things like a Magical Girl meets Apocalypse Now story, a zombie high school story, and other weird things like that. Like I said, too many ideas!

Describe your great Lab of Creation?

  • Where do you work? Home? Coffee Shop?

It depends on the day. Once a month I head over to a local restaurant or the nearest Chick-Fil-A with just a notebook and maybe a book on the writing craft, and I get to it. Drafting, brainstorming, studying. Mostly, though, I’m in the basement at home, with my writing laptop and snacks to keep me from venturing upstairs too often. That way lies distractions, cats needing affection, and games that desire to be played. (It’s totally them, not me, right?)

  • Do you listen to music? If so, give some examples.

I mostly listen to video game and anime music. When I’m hip-deep in the writing, it’s all instrumentals. When I’m brainstorming, outlining, or editing, vocals can be mixed in. Otherwise, the lyrics can end up distracting me when I’m actually drafting.

  • What other things exist in your productive environment?

In the basement, I have a little table where I’ve got my writing laptop, a few craft books for reference, some snacks, and a pair of cross-shaped cufflinks given to me by Larry Dixon back during World Fantasy Con of 2016 over in Columbus, Ohio.

  • What things have you tried that haven’t worked?

Two things. The first is spending too much time in the outlining and brainstorming phase. It’s not so bad with short fiction, as there are only so many factors to take into account for a 5,000 – 10,000 word piece. But, during the writing of Blue Crucible (My first contribution to Christopher Woods’ Fallen World universe) I went from the initial idea sometime in June of last year to finally sitting down to draft it in October and November. Granted, I had a couple other short stories that needed to be finished, but a lot of time was wasted spinning my wheels. So, going forward, I’m going to strive to not spend as much time in that phase of the writing.

And the second is an area I will make work, because I have to. That’s running the blog and maintaining a social media presence. It’s something I’ve tried to start a few times, and it’s always run aground as I’ve focused more and more on writing. That part’s a good thing, but I still need to be out there. Not only to promote, but also to maintain connections to fellow writers and to readers.

What are your superpowers?

  • What kinds of things do you like in your creations?

I like my characters. The plots can sometimes be hard for me to come up with, but I usually don’t have a problem with the core group of characters. Whether it’s Jackie Warren the arms dealer and her team of body guards in the Four Horesemen Universe, or it’s Lieutenant Nathan Ward and his squad of fellow mounted cops in the Fallen World Universe, or it’s Necromancer Adelvell and his band of undead misfits in my Necrolopolis universe, there’s someone for every reader to relate to, to root for, to laugh with, and to cry with.

  • What are specific techniques you do well?

I’ve been told that I do believable dialogue, with the characters having unique voices that don’t require too many tags to keep up with. I’ve also been told that my action sequences read like a movie or anime scene. Easy to visualize, easy to follow. I’m a harsh critic of my own writing, so I don’t know that I agree with that! But, I’ve heard it enough to give it credence.

  • What are some favorite successes you’ve achieved, especially things you had to struggle to overcome?

Completing this first novel all the way to the point of submission. I’ve drafted two other novels, both years ago. I never went back and edited them because they would need to be completely rewritten. I just didn’t know enough. With Blue Crucible, I feel like I’ve finally come around to understanding story structure enough to pull off a full-length work. Is it going to be perfect? No, and nothing I write ever will be. Nothing anyone writes ever will be, save for the Bible (And the writers had a little bit of help from on high for that). But, it was written to the best of my ability at the time, and I know the next book will be even better.

Another success, again involving Blue Crucible, has been to finally start writing with a lot more emotion. The protagonist, Lieutenant Nathan Ward, goes through hell during this book. It begins right on the day the bombs drop in Chris Woods’ Fallen World universe, and he witnesses as his hometown disappears off the map, along with a good bit of the country. He’s distraught, he’s upset, he’s barely holding it together. There are times where he breaks down and weeps. That’s hard for me to write, because it’s not comfortable for me to experience or see. But, with the encouragement of a couple good writer friends I pushed through and showed a lot more raw emotion than I ever have. And I think that’s where my writing’s been the weakest all these years, so I’m excited to see how readers view some of those emotional scenes.

 What will Lex Luthor use to defeat you?

  • What are some of the challenges you have faced that frustrated you?

My own resistance to writing is a personal challenge, and I know I’m not unique in that. Writing, as much fun as it is, is still a brain-burning task. It’s not difficult in the sense that we’re solving complex math equations (Well, maybe the hard sci-fi writers are) or performing life saving surgery or commanding thousands of employees or soldiers, but we’re still utilizing a lot more of the brain than we do in a lot of everyday tasks, even everyday work tasks. And the brain doesn’t always want to do that, so when it comes time to sit down and do the gritty work of writing, distractions abound! Suddenly the most amazing thing in the world is cleaning the toilets or washing the car or cooking dinner, and the writing doesn’t get done.

The other low point came when I went to my first writer’s conference and found out just how deeply political the traditional publishing industry has become (Or always has been, and maybe I just never noticed). I left there having made a few acquaintances and having met a lot of wonderful people, but overall I was very discouraged. It seemed like the industry was stacked against certain demographics and certain political and religious persuasions, and it didn’t matter how good a story you could write if you fell into those categories. My dreams of traditional publishing weren’t dashed exactly, but they were tarnished quite a bit.

And then I went to LibertyCon in 2017, and my whole perspective changed. Baen, Chris Kennedy Publishing, Copperdog Publishing, and other big to small presses out there just wanted a good story. We could have our differing views as writers and professionals and still be colleagues and even friends. What mattered was the skill and the professionalism.

  • Do you have any creative failures which taught you something? What were those lessons?

Lots of rejections, which I know is normal. I’ve had so many short stories get rejected from contests, from magazines, from token publications that I could reroof the house with the manuscripts and the rejection slips.

That said, the only thing that helped me more than the first time I received an editor’s feedback on an accepted piece (Venessa Giunta, if you’re reading this, thank you so much!) was the first time I received a personal rejection message. When an editor or assistant editor takes time out of their busy schedule to tell you why your manuscript didn’t make the final cut, you know you’re on the right track. Because they don’t do that unless they see something in your writing, something they want to see more of. The rejection still stings, but take heart! You’re in the top 5% to 10% at that point.

  • How do you overcome normal slow points like writer’s block?

In the past, before I wanted to make this a career I would try waiting for the muse to strike. That never seemed to work, but it made for a good excuse to get distracted with other things. Good things like work and car repairs and chores, and bad things like marathon sessions of video games and other entertainment.

Now I just do the clichéd thing that always works: sit down in a room with limited distractions, and it’s either write or stare at the wall. Staring at the wall gets old after about five minutes, so I inevitably put my fingers to the keyboard and type. After about an hour, I’m typing nonstop, and before I know it, six hours have gone by and it’s time for dinner.

  • Which mistake would you try to keep other creators from making?

Don’t wait. I spent years wanting to write, and dabbling in it, but I wasn’t really, truly serious about it until 2013 or so, when I started studying the craft. I’ve been writing regularly since about 2008 (with starts and stops before that, through high school and college), but I didn’t look to improve my abilities and technique until several years into it. So, yeah, wherever you’re at, realize you can do better and strive to be better. Don’t let other people talk you out of it, and don’t talk yourself out of it. If it’s something you want to do – if it’s something you’re driven to do – then just sit down and do it. And know that there are people out there eager to read what you produce, and even more eager to see you improve with each work.

  • If you could go back and tell yourself anything about writing, what would it be?

The above statement, in all its form. I should’ve focused on writing as a career from the beginning. I always pushed it aside as a “Well, maybe by the time I’m 25. Maybe by the time I’m 30. Maybe by the time…” Nope, little Ben, sit down and get to it. This is what God’s put you on this Earth to do, and you need to do it before He smites you for your indolence.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet?Do Rigel and Pilot from Farscape count as muppets?
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Does Hatsune Miku count? She’s a little on the artificial side, but what singer isn’t these days?
  • Favorite Superhero? All Might from the anime My Hero Academia, followed by Deku, the protagonist from that series. Greatest superhero saga I’ve ever seen, hands down. Highly recommended.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Dukes of Hazzard for the 70’s. Magnum P.I. and the A-Team for the 80’s.
  • Favorite Weird Color? Stanky Bean, closely followed by Dorkwood and Bank Butt.https://www.geek.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Screenshot-51817-1211-PM-625×908.jpeg
  • Favorite Sports Team? Haven’t watched much sports since high school, so I’ll have to say, “Whichever team my friends aren’t rooting for in the Superbowl.” It’s fun being the contrarian.
  • Best Game Ever? Whichever Superbowl it was that the Patriots came from behind and completely dominated. It was like a switch was thrown at half-time, and then they just owned the field. Or maybe they owned it the whole time and decided it was time to show that.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall.
  • Best Present You’ve Ever Received? Salvation of the soul is the greatest gift God has given me. After that, it’s the love of my wife. And after that, the cover art for Blue Crucible. I never thought my first book would have such epic artwork. Chris Kennedy has my gratitude.
  • What Cartoon Character Are You? If we’re talking western animation, then J.T. Marsh from ExoSquad. If we’re talking eastern animation, then Naofumi Iwatani from Rising of the Shield Hero.
  • Your Wrestler Name? Sweet Tea Man
  • Your Signature Wrestling Move? Something akin to the Atomic Elbow Drop, like the “Deep Steep” or the “Dentist’s Drill.”
  • What Do You Secretly Plot? To unseat the publishing giants and restore the writing world to one that’s based on merit and entertainment value.
  • How Will You Conquer the World? By southernizing everyone with sweet tea, biscuits and gravy, and gumbo.
  • Best Thing From the 80s? The NES, followed by Rototech and Bubblegum Crisis.
  • Favorite Historical Period? Toss-up between Medieval Europe and Revolutionary America
  • Most Interesting Person In History? Joan of Arc. Illiterate peasant girl who rallied a failing army, liberated a city, and died a martyr’s death without ever once relinquishing her faith. I’m looking forward to meeting her on the other side.
  • Steak Temperature? Medium and above.
  • Favorite Chip Dip? The hot bacon cheese spread we make for Christmas Eve every year.  https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/hot-bacon-cheese-spread/
  • Favorite Cereal? Honey Bunches of Oats, all the way. After that, Waffle Crisp.
  • What Do You Eat For Your Last Meal? Whatever it is, I’m washing it down with sweet iced tea.
  • Beverage(s) of Choice? Sweet iced tea.
  • Do You Have Pets? I serve in the Court of the Calico Countess alongside her castellan, Earl Grey.
  • What Actor or Actress Should Portray You in Your Biopic? Vin Diesel, ‘cuz why not?
  • What Question Should I Add to the Lightning Round? Least desired and most desired cause of death.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

  • Website/Blog: BenjaminTylerSmith.com
  • Twitter: @BenTylerSmith
  • Facebook: Benjamin Tyler Smith
  • Blue Crucible will be out in early April! Look for it on Chris Kennedy Publishing’s site!
  • I’m working on the sequel to Blue Crucible and the first Jackie Warren novel in the Four Horsemen Universe. So, expect lots of post-apocalyptic sci-fi and military sci-fi action for 2020!

And where can we find you?

I will be at FantaSci and LibertyCon this year. Hope we can meet up there!

Do you have a creator biography?

By day Ben earns his bread as a necro-cartographer, and by night he writes about undead, aliens, and everything in-between. His first novel is Blue Crucible, published by Chris Kennedy Publishing and set in Christopher Woods’ post-apocalyptic Fallen World universe. Other works include short stories set in CKP’s Four Horsemen military sci-fi universe, the Sha’Daa dark fantasy/horror universe by Copperdog Publishing, and pieces that wound up as finalists for Baen contests both in 2018 and 2019. He is working on the sequel to Blue Crucible, as well as a Four Horsemen novel, both of which will be finished by the end of 2020.

Married to a saint of a woman, ruled by a benevolent calico countess, he can be found at BenjaminTylerSmith.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter (@BenTylerSmith).


Thanks to Benjamin for taking the time to answer my questions.

If you have any suggestions or comments about this interview format, let me know so I can keep tweaking it.

Also, thanks to you for reading. If you’re interested in any of the other interviews I’ve done, you can find them all here: https://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=326. If you are a creator, especially an independent creator, and you want to be spotlighted in a future interview, email me at rob@robhowell.org.

Finally, if you want to join my mailing list, where I’ll announce every interview, as well as what’s going on in my life, go to www.robhowell.org and fill out the form (Name and Email Address) or drop me an email and I’ll add you.

Have a great day.

Rob Howell

LibertyCon 2019 AAR

Greetings all

I’m in Rocky Mount, NC visiting relatives after another fantastic LibertyCon. As always, so much happened that I’ll forget things. It’s the way of cons in general and LibertyCon in particular. I float from awesome thing to awesome thing without enough time to process stuff properly, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

This year, as I’ve mentioned, LibertyCon faced some of the greatest challenges any con has ever faced. Their hotel crapped out on them. The Read House in Chattanooga might be pretty, but they burned some bridges here. A hotel breaking a contract is no big thing, I had it happen to me, and NeoCon in Wichita ended because of it. I had to tell some relative unknown named David Weber that we had to cancel the con and not have him as Guest of Honor. The fact that LibertyCon rolled with it and made it work, especially in the time frame they had is amazing to me.

That is, of course, a credit to the incredible staff, both in their skill and stability. There will come a time when Brandy, Rich, Donnie, Matthew, Vonn, Fritz, and all the rest are not LibertyCon’s spark plugs, but it is not this day! It is one of my favorite aspects of LibertyCon that they are so competent at their jobs, which allowed them to handle this year so smoothly from the perspective of those attending the con. Thanks to all of them and their staff.

That staff is a testimony to the foundations laid by Uncle Timmy. I have talked about him before, but the best tribute is 32 years and going strong of the best SF/F con I’ve ever seen. Honestly, I was a lot less emotional at the con than I expected. I thought about him quite a bit, though I was never terribly close to him, but I was rarely sad. Sad he wasn’t there, of course, but the truth is I was reveling in his creation too much to be sad. Not a bad legacy to have.

I will note, I’m crying while writing this. When I cry at Brewbaker’s, the staff there isn’t surprised or worried. I’m usually killing a character that I like, so that’s alright then. The waitress here at this random bar is probably worried about me. Hopefully, she’s just remember me as a random weirdo.

Speaking of parents, my mom joined me on this trip. She loved LibertyCon too. At Closing Ceremonies, when Brandy announced the dates for membership sales, mom told me to get her one and that was before Linda Bolgeo, among others, taught her to play Yahtzee at the dead dog party and she lasted longer than I did. Yes, Fritz, you’re right: “Rob’s mom sucks less than he does.”

Side note: Fritz, you made me laugh with this, which is just as well as you made me cry for the other.

The weekend started with getting together on Thursday night. This will shock people, but we closed the bar. It’s always great to get together and catch up, especially after such a productive year for all of us.

Side note, we’re not the Inklings, but the writing crew Chris Kennedy has gathered into his orbit is talented and hard-working. We’re doing great stuff already, and the future looks bright. Tons of stuff planned, announced, and plotted at LibertyCon. I’m honored to be a part of this.

The con started with those of us in the Four Horsemen Universe talking about the future of the 4HU. The Omega War series concluded with Alabaster Noon, and there was concern that this meant the 4HU was slowing down. To the contrary, the Omega War, despite its name, is only the second of five main-line series being plotted right now. That does not include side novels like The Feeding of Sorrows and a slew of other projects. The 4HU ain’t going away now. I’d be shocked if the eventual corpus of the 4HU is less than 100 novels plus anthologies, games, and whatever else. We’re at 35 and growing now.

Next was a panel on the contact between history, historical fiction, and fantasy. The best part of this con was chatting with David P. Coe, who is a very smart man and excellent writer.

I mentioned there wasn’t as much emotion as I expected about Timmy at LibertyCon, but Opening Ceremonies was one of two places where it was greatest. Gray Rinehart sang a new filk about Timmy, making Brandy cry. Then, Christopher Woods, looking bewildered, was drug up on the stage by Toni Weisskopf to announce a new anthology tuckerizing all of LibertyCon in honor of Timmy that will include a bunch of big names. The proceeds will go to both LibertyCon and a scholarship to the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop. Really cool, and it’s great to see good things happen to Chris.

My autograph session at 7pm went well, as I got a chance to chat with a few people and even sold a book or two. That’s what such a session is there for, and they are also one of the few times I can actually talk for a bit with a fan instead of the usual go-go-go. That’s so nice.

Then I did a reading with Theresa Howard at 9pm. Readings are fun, but sadly, 9pmm readings don’t tend to get many viewers. Probably just as well, because I don’t like the selection I made from The Feeding of Sorrows. Not enough action. I’ll pick a better choice next time.

I intended, at that point, to make it an early night. Narrator: “He did not make it an early night.” We got into a long discussion that turned into revelry at the bar. Closed it down again. I knew I wasn’t closing down the bar on Saturday, though…

Saturday started with a number of logistical things for the party, plus getting a bunch of old computer equipment to Gerry Martin. He has found ways to take all the old stuff, refurbish it, and provide it to a variety of users. Plus, it got boxes of stuff out of my house.

The banquet was the other moment of big emotion about Uncle Timmy, especially Arlen Andrews’ speech. It was also a great time for my mom, which I really enjoyed.

At 4pm, Chris Kennedy hosted his year ahead. He might have to do it in two hours next year, as he has so much going on. I got to announce the sequel to The Feeding of Sorrows, When Need Shall Arise. I’m aiming to have it out around FantaSci next year.

At 6pm, I had an Author’s Alley time. This, too, went really well I thought. I would have done really well if I could have had a solid block of three hours, but there simply wasn’t time this year.

And that’s because of the Rob Howell/Chris Kennedy Publishing Party. This was, again, a rollicking success. We lasted past 3:30am. We went late enough that the bartenders were able to close the bar and come join us for a bit. Technically, we did *not* close the bar. Technically.

It’s become such a success we’re looking at getting more square footage as we’re just doing too well. Plans are afoot to make it even more fun next year.

Sadly, that meant when 9:30am rolled around and I theoretically had to get down to Author’s Alley at 10, I simply rolled over and got another hour or so of sleep. Sorry, not sorry. Will plan better next year.

I concluded my panels with a fun one called: Pantsing for Beginners. If you’ve never heard the term, Pantsing is “writing by the seat of your pants.” In other words, not plotting ahead of time. This ended up as a pretty good two-hour panel including Rich Weyand and Stephanie Osborn.

We left that to get to Closing Ceremonies, where Brandy announced the 2020 dates, 12-14 June. Then we went to meat fest at Rodizio’s, which wasn’t as organized this year because the restaurant didn’t respond to Gerry. Ah well, we ate meat. Lots of meat.

Last year I checked out of the dead dog party early. I almost did so again, but I caught a second wind and lasted until 11:30. Mom lasted until midnight. I had a great time chatting with Bubba of Bubba Truck fame and a bunch of others.

LibertyCon was, as usual, fruitful in all the ways. I have a number of new irons in the fire. While I don’t have many details at this time, suffice to say, I’ve got a bunch of new projects to work on. And that means, at LibertyCon 2020, I’ll just have to make new plans.

So thanks to Brandy and everyone running the con. Thanks to Mark and Chris for the 4HU. Thanks to the fans that are keeping The Feeding of Sorrows at number two new release in Action and Adventure. Thanks to all I hung out with at LibertyCon. And thanks to all who’ve supported me over the past few years. I’ll keep trying to get better.

Now, to go work on None Call Me Mother.

 

FantaSci AAR

I’m home. The overall trip was over 4000 miles. There were a bunch of highlights, and you can find my Gulf Wars AAR here.

The cap to it all was FantaSci. This was the first year of the con, but you really wouldn’t have known that if you weren’t told. They did have some advantages, like pulling from a former con (HonorCon) and having it be a major event for two different fan groups (The TRMN and the 4HU Mercenary Guild). However, that doesn’t ensure success, and it was a very successful con.

I’d like to stop for a moment to thank Lyons and his staff for doing a great job. If the name Lyons sounds familiar in the context of the 4HU, it’s because he has been tuckerized as the owner of the Lyon’s Den merc bar, which provided the impetus for three anthologies of short stories. He and his crew had things organized well. As I said, one could not tell it was the first time with this con, as the issues I saw are the issues one usually finds at any con, like issues with the hotel and its bar and restaurant.

Another side note, I rather enjoyed the hotel. The food was pretty good, not terribly expensive, and the bar had an IPA on tap. The rooms were also much cheaper than one normally finds at a con. I hope they stay there.

I was in a lot of panels, which is just the way I like it. On Friday I was in a fun panel sponsored by Ian J. Malone, which discussed sports in SF and fantasy writing, such as baseball in the Honor Harrington universe and the like. Sports has been a part of humanity since we became a species, and it will continue in space and exist in fantasy worlds, just like it did it in the Middle Ages.

My next panel was a discussion of writing in shared worlds. I’m getting a taste of this in the 4HU, and have plans to open up Shijuren for at least some anthologies, so this was a valuable one for me to listen and learn, as well as comment.

Saturday was a huge day for me. I started with a panel discussing Alternate History Change Points. This was actually a major treat for me, as one of my favorite authors, Steve White was on this panel. Also included were Kacey Ezell and Christopher Woods, so it was a lively panel.

Then I went into a stretch of four panels in five hours, starting with a panel on pantsing. Pantsing, if you’ve not heard the term, means writing from the seat of your pants. The other end of the spectrum is plotting. It was a huge thing for me to discover that pantsing was an accepted and normal form of writing, because that’s what came naturally to me. I tend to plot more than I used to, but generally only in vague terms. It still makes more sense to see what the characters do rather than forcing them into a certain path.

Immediately was the Chris Kennedy Publishing panel where Chris talked about all the things that are coming. I got to talk about the Feeding of Sorrows and see a bunch of things coming down the pike. Kennedy is amazing. He has done incredible stuff and made a bunch of opportunities for other writers.

After an hour break, I was in a panel on genre blending, which of course I talk about a goodly amount given the Edward novels.

Finally, I was on a whimsical panel about the messiest ways to kill undead. This panel was designed to go off the rails, and off the rails we went. Lots of fun.

Saturday night was the highlight of the event. It was perhaps the best single experience I’ve had in the con scene as a writer. The 4HU Mercenary Guild held a Dining Out. If you’re in the military, you know what this means. It is a ritual dinner, with a number of specific toasts and ceremonies. I was generally an observer, asking questions of the vets at my table and learning. I was also smart enough not to create a reason that I needed to drink the grog. A certain Minion, on the other hand, fought the grog and the grog won. Much hilarity has and will ensue on that.

After the Dining Out was a number of fun things. Saturday happened to be Kacey Ezell’s birthday, and also she and Marisa Wolf had a bestseller on Amazon to celebrate. Then there was floating to some parties, including going down to karaoke, which was a lot of fun. I even sang some Dropkick Murphys. Then we ended the night chatting in my room until late, even getting security to tell us to be quiet.

Sunday was much more laid back. I didn’t have any panels, though I did go to closing ceremonies. This was the first con where I was “featured” in any way, and I made sure I was at the ceremonies. Lyons paid me an incredible honor with that, and I can’t thank him enough.

Mostly what I did on Sunday, though, was get out my laptop and offer to update wiki entries. Many of the attendees to the con are redshirts in the 4HU, and I added fun things to a number of entries.

Then I was in a quandary. I had plans to eat with my aunt and uncle around 5pm. However, I *really* wanted to get home. I canceled and left around 2 to try and get past Nashville on a Sunday night. I made it to Clarksville, despite losing an hour to construction in Knoxville. It’s a good thing I did, because I was pushing through a bit of flu yesterday and I might have lost a day coming home. Given that in two days I set up at Planet Comicon, I really couldn’t spare the time. Side note, I feel much better this morning, even to the point of keeping food down.

FantaSci was an amazing con. Truly one of the best I have ever been to. LibertyCon level, even. I ticked off all the professional goals I had, enjoyed myself, and met a bunch of new friends.

It was also the launch of the 4HU Mercenary Guild fan group. You can find it here: www.mercenaryguild.org. I know I’m only a bit player in this universe, but it’s still cool to be a part of it. If you like the 4HU books, sign on up. I’ll be starting up a Foresters unit when the time comes.

I may not get to go next year because of timing, though. I think it’s on the second weekend of Gulf Wars next years, so I may have to make a choice.

However, I’ll go back every year I can. It’s on the list.